A Guide to the James W. Allison papers, 1885-1896, 1971 Allison, James W., papers M 1

A Guide to the James W. Allison papers, 1885-1896, 1971

A Collection in
Special Collections and Archives, previous hitJames next hit Branch Cabell Library
Collection number M 1


Virginia Commonwealth University, James Branch Cabell Library

Special Collections and Archives
James Branch Cabell Library
Box 842003
Virginia Commonwealth University
Richmond, Virginia 23284-2003
Phone: (804) 828-1108
Fax: (804) 828-0151
Email: libjbcsca@vcu.edu
URL: http://www.library.vcu.edu/about/special-collections/cabell/

© 2014 By Virginia Commonwealth University. All rights reserved

Processed by: previous hitJames next hit Branch Cabell Library, Special Collections and Archives staff.

Special Collections and Archives, previous hitJames next hit Branch Cabell Library
Collection Number
M 1
previous hitJames next hit W. previous hitAllison next hit papers, 1885-1896, 1971
3.5 linear feet.

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

Collection is open to research.

Use Restrictions

There are no restrictions.

Preferred Citation

[Box/Folder], previous hitJames next hit W. previous hitAllison next hit papers, Collection Number M 1, Special Collections and Archives, previous hitJames next hit Branch Cabell Library, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Va.

Acquisition Information

The collection was transferred to the library from the Office of the President in 1972.

Custodial History

previous hitJames next hit W. previous hitAllison next hit, Jr. gave his father's papers to Elizabeth S. Bocock. Bocock donated these material to Warren W. Brandt, then president of VCU. President Brandt transferred the materials to previous hitJames next hit Branch Cabell Library.

Biographical/Historical Information

previous hitJames next hit W. previous hitAllison next hit

previous hitJames next hit Waters previous hitAllison next hit was born in Richmond, Virginia on December 15, 1833 to William previous hitAllison next hit (1783-1850) and Nancy Ann Waters previous hitAllison next hit (1799-1860). previous hitAllison next hit, a life-long resident of Richmond, began in business with the firm of Ludlam & Watson, forwarding merchants and agents for the Powhatan Steamship Company. He later worked with the Old Dominion Steamship Company. After his father's death in 1850, previous hitAllison next hit began a tobacco manufacturing company with his partner William Palmer. The business closed at the outbreak of the Civil War. In 1858 previous hitAllison next hit married his first wife Mary Robbins Zimmerman of Alexandria, Virginia. They had a daughter, Dora, born in 1859.

After the war ended in 1865, previous hitAllison next hit and his partner Edmund B. Addison established the seed and fertilizer firm of previous hitAllison next hit and Addison. By the 1890s the company had greatly expanded and become one of the most successful fertilizer producers in the South with branches in Charleston, South Carolina, Columbus and Savannah, Georgia, as well as other southern cities. After the death of his first wife, previous hitAllison next hit married Bettie L. Thomas (1848-1876) of Richmond, but she died not long after their marriage. Minnie Clemens Jones (1870-1927) became his third wife in December 1890 and previous hitAllison next hit began searching for a new home in 1891.

At some point previous hitAllison next hit decided to build rather than buy and acquired a lot on West Franklin Street, Richmond's most fashionable residential neighborhood during that period. The house was designed by New York architectural firm of Griffin & Randall and built between 1894 and 1896. Both partners boasted fine architectural pedigrees. Percy Griffin (1866-1921) graduated from the architectural school at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1884 and then worked in the office of H. H. Richardson. T. Henry Randall (1862-1905), a native of Annapolis, Maryland had also worked for Richardson after attending Johns Hopkins University, MIT, and the Ecole de Beaux-Arts in Paris. Randall, chose the Colonial Revival design of the house, making it one of the first of that style built in Richmond. It pre-dates other early Colonial Revival houses on Monument Avenue by some 10 years. In 1894, while engaged on this project Griffin and Randall decided to dissolve their partnership. previous hitAllison next hit was forced to choose which architect he wanted to oversee the completion of his house. Randall, who was the senior partner and had the most influence over the building's design, was selected.

previous hitAllison next hit had little time to enjoy his new home as he died suddenly at the age of 65 in 1898. The funeral services were conducted at the home on West Franklin and he was buried in Hollywood Cemetery. At the time of his death previous hitAllison next hit left an estate of nearly one million dollars. previous hitAllison next hit had been active in other endeavors beyond his firm. He was on the board of directors of the Nation Bank of Virginia and President of the Old Dominion Fruit Growing Company. He as was a member of the previous hitJames next hit River Improvement Committee and was a founding member of the Broad Street Methodist Episcopal Church, South.

previous hitAllison's next hit son previous hitJames next hit Waters previous hitAllison next hit, Jr. (1894-1979) eventually inherited the house on West Franklin Street. In 1938 the family sold the home to the Richmond Professional Institute (RPI), which was used as the office and residence of Henry Hibbs, dean of RPI. The house continued to be used as the office of the president when RPI and the Medical College of Virginia merged to form VCU in 1968.

Scope and Content

The previous hitJames next hit W. previous hitAllison next hit papers are a valuable resource for those interested in late 19th century architectural history or who want to know more about the history of this building due to its use as the VCU Office of the President. The collection contains original architectural drawings, correspondence, specifications, building notes, memoranda, blueprints, and illustrations dealing with the design and construction of 910 West Franklin Street. The majority of the letters are from the architects Percy Griffin and T. Henry Randall. The correspondence details the demise of the Griffin and Randall's architectural firm which dissolved in 1894. Also included with this collection are plaster and wallpaper fragments collected after fire at the house in 1971.


The collection is arranged into four series and arranged chronologically where applicable.

Series 1: Correspondence, 1892-1896

Series 2: Electric Light and Gas Fixtures, circa 1885-1886

Series 3: Wallpaper and Plaster, 1971

Series 4: Plans and Blueprints, 1890s

Contents List

Series I: Correspondence, 1892-1896
Box: 1-3
  • Box-folder 1:1
    Griffin, Percy: proposal for sale of horses, 1893 November 9
  • Box-folder 1:2
    Griffin, Percy: third floor rooms for guests, 1893 November 18
  • Box-folder 1:3
    Griffin, Percy: shipment of horses, 1893 November 20
  • Box-folder 1:4
    Harbaugh, H.W.(Veterinarian): examination of horse, 1893 November 20
  • Box-folder 1:5
    Griffin, Percy: horses; 1-4 inch scale layout of house, 1893 November 29
  • Box-folder 1:6
    Griffin and Randall: proposal for two-story bay window in rear extension of house, 1893 December 1
  • Box-folder 1:7
    Griffin and Randall: plans and estimates, 1894 January 6
  • Box-folder 1:8
    Griffin and Randall: settlement for plans, 1894 January 24
  • Box-folder 1:9
    Griffin and Randall: asking about Mr. Higham of Richmond as architect, 1894 February 9
  • Box-folder 1:10
    Griffin and Randall: requesting names of builders that previous hitAllison next hit prefers, 1894 February 17
  • Box-folder 1:11
    Griffin and Randall: carpenters, masons, and Mr. Higham, 1894 February 19
  • Box-folder 1:12
    Griffin and Randall: employment of W. Lee as Program of Operations, 1894 February 21
  • Box-folder 1:13
    Read, Charles H: bill for services to date, 1894 February 22
  • Box-folder 1:14
    Griffin and Randall: sending drawings and specifications, 1894 March 6
  • Box-folder 1:15
    Griffin, Percy: acknowledging receipt of check, 1894 March 7
  • Box-folder 1:16
    Griffin and Randall: visit, 1894 March 10
  • Box-folder 1:17
    Griffin and Randall: number of bricks, window openings, and openings in partition, 1894 March 20
  • Box-folder 1:18
    Griffin, Percy: suggesting reduction of thickening of walls, 1894 March 24
  • Box-folder 1:19
    Griffin and Randall: receipts of bids, 1894 March 24
  • Box-folder 1:20
    Griffin and Randall: work estimates, 1894 March 27
  • Box-folder 1:21
    Griffin and Randall: estimates, 1894 March 28
  • Box-folder 1:22
    Griffin and Randall: estimates on heating and hardware; Robinson's estimate; brownstone water table, 1894 March 29
  • Box-folder 1:23
    Griffin and Randall: thickness of foundation walls, use granite or bricks, 1894 April 7
  • Box-folder 1:24
    Griffin and Randall: estimates from marble, 1894 April 14
  • Box-folder 1:25
    Griffin and Randall: estimates; telegram, 1894 April 17
  • Box-folder 1:26
    Griffin, Percy: leaving for England, 1894 April 24
  • Box-folder 1:27
    Randall, T. Henry: Griffin left for England; Randall takes over project; brick work; slate window sills, 1894 April 26
  • Box-folder 1:28
    Randall, T. Henry: masonry; visiting Richmond, 1894 May 17
  • Box-folder 1:29
    Griffin and Randall: advising marble caps; Mr. Randall visiting Richmond, 1894 June 7
  • Box-folder 1:30
    Randall, T. Henry: drawings and explanations of interior finish, 1894 June 14
  • Box-folder 1:31
    Griffin and Randall: joints shrinking; Mr. Randall in Richmond; the firm of Karcher and Rehn Co., 1894 June 22
  • Box-folder 1:32
    Griffin, Percy: congratulations on son; windows, 1894 July 15
  • Box-folder 1:33
    Griffin and Randall: two ways to enable use of sill; rear door, 1894 July 21
  • Box-folder 1:34
    Griffin and Randall: outside pilasters; metals to use; 'English Putty,' 1894 July 30
  • Box-folder 1:35
    Griffin and Randall: finish of dining room, 1894 August 3
  • Box-folder 1:36
    Randall, T. Henry: visit to Richmond to go over matters of house, 1894 August 4
  • Box-folder 1:37
    Griffin and Randall: dining room finish with Kimbell and Sons and E. H. Purdy and Co.; Griffin out of country, 1894 August 14
  • Box-folder 1:38
    Griffin and Randall: mahogany panel for dining room; wainscoting; Japanese paper, 1894 August 20
  • Box-folder 1:39
    Griffin and Randall: dissolving the firm and choosing Mr. Randall to continue the work, 1894 September 4
  • Box-folder 1:40
    Randall, T. Henry: the limitations of Mr. Griffin, 1894 September 5
  • Box-folder 1:41
    Griffin, Percy: announcing his arrival back in New York; asking to be received; thanking Mr. previous hitAllison next hit for not letting any advantage be taken of him during his absence, 1894 September 15
  • Box-folder 1:42
    Griffin and Randall: no estimate yet from Stowe and Nuckols on finish of interior; Mr. Randall to be in Baltimore, possibly Richmond, 1894 September 21
  • Box-folder 1:43
    previous hitAllison next hit, previous hitJames next hit W. [to T. Henry Randall]: telegram-heading to New York, 1894 September 24
  • Box-folder 1:44
    Griffin and Randall: height of outlets for gas; Stowe and Nuckols sent $3000.00 estimate for finishes not received; sliding door hangers ordered, 1894 October 1
  • Box-folder 1:45
    Randall, T. Henry: able to come to Richmond, 1894 October 5
  • Box-folder 1:46
    Randall, T. Henry: nothing from Stowe and Nuckols-coming to Richmond to hurry them, 1894 October 13
  • Box-folder 1:47
    Griffin and Randall: stairs from the first to second floor to be pine; tin around walls of pantry and behind base, 1894 October 20
  • Box-folder 1:48
    Griffin and Randall: defining crystal, polished plate, and plate glass; recommends a Duparquet French range for $72.20, 1894 October 30
  • Box-folder 1:49
    Griffin and Randall: "crashers" are bumpers; objections to running rain water into sewers; offices will be moved to 52 Broadway, 1894 November 1
  • Box-folder 1:50
    Griffin, Percy: decide who keeps the work on house since firm is broken, 1894 November 4
  • Box-folder 1:51
    Griffin, Percy: requesting to finish work rather than Randall, 1894 November 6
  • Box-folder 1:52
    Griffin and Randall: office and drawings of firm moved to 52 Broadway, 1894 November 6
  • Box-folder 1:53
    Griffin, Percy: best men in office to remain with Griffin, 1894 November 7
  • Box-folder 1:54
    Griffin, Percy: removal of office; decide who keeps the work, 1894 November 8
  • Box-folder 1:55
    Griffin and Randall: received Stowe and Nuckols estimates; Griffin's reopening question of superintendence, 1894 November 9
  • Box-folder 1:56
    Griffin and Randall: further reduced the estimates of Purdy for interior finish, 1894 November 13
  • Box-folder 1:57
    Griffin and Randall [to Stowe and Nuckols]: return drawings of previous hitAllison next hit House mantels, caps, arch and door of music room; dining room finish, pilaster and trim, 1894 November 20
  • Box-folder 1:58
    Griffin and Randall: start Purdy on ornamental work; ordered drawings back from Stowe and Nuckols; dining room finish with wainscoting for $1200, 1894 November 20
  • Box-folder 1:59
    Griffin, Percy: do nothing in matter between Griffin and Randall until hearing from Griffin again, 1894 November 23
  • Box-folder 1:60
    Griffin and Randall: Purdy's estimate for dining room; bid on library; move gas outlets; stained pine not as good as Cyprus; wall paneling, 1894 November 26
  • Box-folder 1:61
    Griffin, Percy: Informing previous hitAllison next hit of legal opinion on differences between Griffin and Randall, 1894 November 28
  • Box-folder 1:62
    Griffin and Randall: architects and dining room, 1894 December 3
  • Box-folder 2:1
    Griffin and Randall: dining room, 1894 December 6
  • Box-folder 2:2
    Griffin, Percy: arbitration between Griffin and Randall, 1894 December 10
  • Box-folder 2:3
    Griffin, Percy: arbitration between Griffin and Randall concerning which party continues to work for Mr. previous hitAllison next hit, 1894 December 18
  • Box-folder 2:4
    Griffin and Randall: dining room, 1894 December 12
  • Box-folder 2:5
    Randall, T. Henry: dining room and library finish, 1894 December 19
  • Box-folder 2:6
    Griffin and Randall: estimate for library finish; estimate on work from Purdy, 1895 January 8
  • Box-folder 2:7
    Griffin and Randall: estimates from Stowe and Nuckols and Purdy on blinds for dining room and library; oak trim, 1895 January 9
  • Box-folder 2:8
    Griffin and Randall: Purdy's estimate for library; revised hardware list, 1895 January 12
  • Box-folder 2:9
    Griffin and Randall: no "L" hinges for outside blind, advised to use ordinary hinges; dining room and library finish, 1895 January 19
  • Box-folder 2:10
    Griffin and Randall: Stowe and Nuckols unable to make estimate without personal interview, Mr. Randall in Richmond, 1895 January 25
  • Box-folder 2:11
    Randall, T. Henry: authorized Stowe and Nuckols to begin; red 9 inch tile for hearth; Purdy's woodwork; library bid, 1895 February 16
  • Box-folder 2:12
    Griffin and Randall: prefer quartered oak in library; Newman to finish screw sash fasts, substitute brass for bower finish except in case of knobs and hinges, 1895 February 28
  • Box-folder 2:13
    Randall, T. Henry: Purdy finishing mahogany wood work; fire place marble facing and hearth, 1895 March 4
  • Box-folder 2:14
    Randall, T. Henry: drawings have been made for changes in library and front porch, 1985 March 12
  • Box-folder 2:15
    Randall, T. Henry: tiles for hearths; iron rail and heating, 1895 March 14
  • Box-folder 2:16
    Randall, T. Henry: flooring-wood type, 1895 March 21
  • Box-folder 2:17
    Griffin and Randall: painter's samples for staining black walnut doors; approved samples of hardware; staining instructions, 1895 March 29
  • Box-folder 2:18
    Griffin and Randall: wood stain samples-enamel paint; fireplace tile, 1895 April 3
  • Box-folder 2:19
    Randall, T. Henry: wood stains; Eureka Paint, 1895 April 8
  • Box-folder 2:20
    Griffin and Randall: estimate from Batterson and Eisele for marble; stain sample, 1895 April 10
  • Box-folder 2:21
    Randall, T. Henry: to be in Richmond; Purdy to ship material, 1895 April 15
  • Box-folder 2:22
    Randall, T. Henry: Newman the hardware man; Purdy sent material; lacquered knobs, 1895 May 7
  • Box-folder 2:23
    Griffin and Randall: bill for Purdy; bill from Newcomb Mfg.Co. for trim, ornament caps, etc, needs revision, 1895 May 13
  • Box-folder 2:24
    Randall, T. Henry: registers for music, reception, bed room and halls white enameled; library and dining room bronzed, 1895 May 15
  • Box-folder 2:25
    Griffin and Randall: library hardware, mantels and trim by Purdy, 1895 May 27
  • Box-folder 2:26
    Griffin and Randall: carpet strips for rooms in second and third floors, 1895 June 1
  • Box-folder 2:27
    Randall, T. Henry: directions for putting on the "push button" fastenings in library and hall closets; no Yale locks ordered; red and Dutch times; moulding, 1895 June 18
  • Box-folder 2:28
    Randall, T. Henry: El Dorado paper, 1895 July 9
  • Box-folder 2:29
    Randall, T. Henry: fixtures, bedroom mantel, with samples, 1895 July 21
  • Box-folder 2:30
    Randall, T. Henry: postponing trip to Richmond; if papers are too expensive will search for less expensive ones, 1895 July 29
  • Box-folder 2:31
    Randall, T. Henry: Boote's bill for tile; tile estimates, 1895 July 30
  • Box-folder 2:32
    Randall, T. Henry: paints for "leaded" sash, 1895 August 5
  • Box-folder 2:33
    Randall, T. Henry: in Annapolis-can come to Richmond, vacation, 1895 August 10
  • Box-folder 2:34
    Randall, T. Henry: suggesting tinted ceiling; in Adirondacks, 1895 August 16
  • Box-folder 2:35
    Randall, T. Henry: color of blinds for vestibule; in Richmond on Wednesday, 1895 September 23
  • Box-folder 2:36
    Randall, T. Henry: report on El Dorado paper; suggests kalsomining halls, 1895 October 16
  • Box-folder 2:37
    Randall, T. Henry: El Dorado paper costs, suggestion for supplying the deficiency in paper, 1895 October 22
  • Box-folder 2:38
    Randall, T. Henry: approval for work and sending man to hang El Dorado paper and tint ceiling, 1895 October 26
  • Box-folder 2:39
    Randall, T. Henry: arrangement of El Dorado paper, price for hanging, 1895 November 5
  • Box-folder 2:40
    Griffin and Randall: Estimates from Purdy and Stowe and Nuckols, 1895 December 18
  • Box-folder 2:41
    Randall, T. Henry: settlement of the firms accounts, 1896 April 11
  • Box-folder 2:42
    Randall, T. Henry: urging remittance of balance owed to Griffin and Randall, 1896 June 4
  • Box-folder 2:43
    Randall, T. Henry: apology for letter from 1896 June 4, 1896 June 9
  • Box-folder 3:1
    H. Seldon Taylor and Sons, Real Estate Agents, Auctioneers and Brokers, 1892 October 8
  • Box-folder 3:2
    Graves, John L.C.: wallpaper, includes samples, 1894 June 1
  • Box-folder 3:3
    W. C. Hughes and Co.: windows, shades and awnings, 1895 October 25
  • Box-folder 3:4
    Mitchell Vance Company: gas and electric light fixtures, 1895 September 11 - 1896 January 23
  • Box-folder 3:5
    Stearns, previous hitJames next hit F. of the previous hitJames next hit F. Stearns Paper Hanging and Decorations Co, 1895 September 18 - 1896 July 1
  • Box-folder 3:6
    Notes on estimates, sketch and the E. T. Burrows Co. wire window screen installation instructions, circa 1895-1896
  • Box-folder 3:7
    Plumbing specifications and General Report by Griffin and Randall, circa 1895
Series 2: Light and Gas Fixtures, 1885-1886
Box: 4
  • Box-folder 4:1-4
    Card 1: P.13.414, 1-1 It. Gas, 2 It. Electric, Antique Brass Combination Brackets, made 3 arms; centre for gas; 2 side arms electric, with rich cut glass, 1885-1886
  • Box-folder 4:5-9
    Card 2: P.15.170, 1-3 It. Rich French Gilt Combination Bracket, with etched glass, and Card 2:P.15.171, 1 It Comb. Bracket, 1885-1886
  • Box-folder 4:10-13
    Card 3: P.16.872, 1-4 lt. Antique Brass Combination Chandelier, made with 8 arms; all with rich cut gas globes, 1885-1886
  • Box-folder 4:14-17
    Card 4: P.16.873, 1-4 lt. Rich French Gilt Combination Chandelier, 8 arms, with etched glass on electric arms, 1885-1886
  • Box-folder 4:18-21
    Card 5: P.16.877, 4-2 lt. Etruscan Combination Brackets, with rich cut glass electric shades, 1885-1886
  • Box-folder 4:22-25
    Card 6: P.16.940, 4-2 lt. Butler's Silver Combination Brackets, with rich cut glass electric shades, 1885-1886
Series 3: Wallpaper and Plaster, 1971
Boxes: 5-6
  • Box 5
    Wallpaper and plaster fragments from the entry hall at 910 West Franklin Street
    Fragments, A-M
  • Box 6
    Wallpaper and plaster fragment from the entry hall at 910 West Franklin Street
    Fragments, N-AB
Series 4: Plans and Blueprints, 1890s
Map-case: 1
  • Map-case 1:1
    Plans to previous hitAllison next hit House grounds, 1890s
  • Map-case 1:2
    Original Griffin and Randall plans for previous hitAllison next hit house-nine drawings which include: west elevation, east elevation, transverse section, foundation plan, first floor plan, second floor plan, attic and roof plan, longitudinal section and north elevation, 1894
  • Map-case 1:3
    Plan for front porch-scale and detail-Griffin and Randall, 1894
  • Map-case 1:4
    Side elevation, 1894
    The drawing is fragile, broken into several pieces.
  • Map-case 1:5
    Fireplace and bookshelf plans, 1894
    In fragile condition.
  • Map-case 1:6
    Sketch of dining room, previous hitAllison House, 1894